Graduate students at the University of California, Davis, have begun field tests on very rare commodities: high-yield, disease-resistant bean varieties that can thrive on organic farms.
“Most crops — about 95 percent — have been bred for conventional farming and can be difficult to grow in organic systems. These new bean varieties could make a big difference in performance and profitability of organic legumes like pinto, black, and kidney beans, as well as heirloom-like varieties with high culinary quality,” according to Travis Parker, a Ph.D. student in plant biology who is leading the project.
To create a winning variety, breeders cross plants with desired traits and select the best offspring over multiple generations. It takes several years of plot testing to give birth to a variety good enough to name and sell. With each new generation of crops, breeders select plants that perform well in the system in which they are being raised.
NIFA supports this research through the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant program.
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